While the defensive line for Texas A&M has received a lot of fanfare, it could be the offensive line that holds the key to the season for the Aggies. If Kellen Mond takes the steps forward that he is expected to, Texas A&M’s offensive line will have to improve on the 2.69 sacks per game number that had them ranked 102nd in the nation in the category. However, it wasn’t all bad for the Aggies in 2018, an offensive line anchored by current Saints center Erik McCoy and senior guard Keaton Sutherland powered the Aggies to a top 25 finish in rushing yards per game. Unfortunately, with both veterans moving on to the NFL, new offensive line coach Josh Henson will have to find a way to replace that production while continuing to coach up the two offensive tackles.
While the middle of the offensive line will see different starters in 2018, juniors Dan Moore and Carson Green will be returning to man the left and right tackle positions respectively. Moore struggled at left tackle at times during the 2018 season, particularly with speed rushers on the edge. Moore will need to be better in 2019 but the Beaumont, Texas native did seem to be steadily improving during the season.
On the other side of the line, Carson Green was reliable at right tackle if not particularly spectacular. Much like Moore, we also saw improvement out of Green over the course of the season. I’m interested to see how the two starters progress under their position coach, but if the improvement over the season is any kind of hint at what to expect, I’d expect both to be solid starters in 2019.
Behind Moore at left tackle looks to be junior Kellen Diesch. Diesch provided quality depth at the position in 2018 as well and should anything happen to Moore, he would be able to step in as a starter. Diesch has the frame you want in an offensive tackle and enough experience to be a valuable asset on the depth chart.
Right tackle depth was a little more of a question mark going into camp but look for a guy like Grayson Reed to step up should anything happen to Carson Green. Reed has bounced back and forth between guard and tackle but hasn’t seen any action at A&M yet.
The only offensive lineman in Texas A&M’s 2019 signing class who is currently working at offensive tackle is the true freshman from Hallsville, Texas, Blake Trainor. Trainor will have to take some time to adjust to a completely new style of offense but the East Texas product plays a mean style of football that should translate well to the SEC once he adapts. I expect Trainor to redshirt in 2019.
Jared Hocker missed some time in 2018 due to injury, but when he’s healthy, the junior guard consistently grades out as one of the best offensive lineman Texas A&M has. Now that he’s healthy, he’ll look to pick up where he left off creating holes for the Aggie backfield in the run game. Hocker at left guard is the only sure thing the Aggies have on the interior right now with Sutherland and McCoy moving on but there is still some belief from Jimbo Fisher and the rest of the coaching staff that this unit will continue to be a strength for the Aggies.
Rumblings out of camp (see: videos I’ve watched on Twitter) have Kenyon Green currently pegged as the starter at right guard. It can be a little worrisome when a true freshman starts on the offensive line, but Kenyon Green is likely just that talented. Green’s film coming out of high school showed an athletic lineman with the power to finish blocks on just about anyone. It will be interesting to see how Green develops but while I believe he will eventually slide out to tackle, it’s for the best that he begins his career on the interior.
A trio of young linemen and one elder statesman will be providing depth at the guard positions for the Aggies. Tank Jenkins, Luke Matthews, and Barton Clement are all beginning their second season in the program after signing in Texas A&M’s 2018 class. Of the three, Matthews is likely the name most familiar to Texas A&M fans as the younger brother of former Texas A&M offensive linemen Jake and Mike Matthews. The youngest Matthews is a technician, as should be expected considering his roots, but continues to build his strength in the offseason program in College Station. Jenkins and Clement may not have the same family pedigree as Matthews, but both are physically gifted guards who could see playing time in 2019.
Closing out the offensive guard depth is Riley Anderson. Anderson hasn’t seen a ton of action at Texas A&M but it’s always good to have an older guy on the depth chart to help guide younger players through the trials and tribulations of life as a college athlete. I don’t expect Anderson to get much playing time in 2019 but he’s still an invaluable asset to this team.
Going into fall camp, I expected Ryan McCollum to be the undisputed starter at the center position. However, after McCollum got a little banged up, it appears senior Colton Prater has inserted himself into the conversation as a potential starter at the position. Prater has seen work at every position on the offensive line over his career at A&M, providing excellent depth wherever he has been needed. The kind of football intelligence required to learn each position will serve him well as a center in identifying defensive schemes as well as knowing the responsibilities of other offensive linemen. In particular, his experience should be an asset to a young guy like Kenyon Green.
Of course, if Ryan McCollum is healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reclaim the starting spot. The junior closed the year in strong fashion for the Aggies, playing a big part in that dominant Aggie rushing attack. Aggie fans should feel confident with either McCollum or Prater at the position.
Behind the starting battle is true freshman, Layden Robinson. Robinson will have time to develop his craft in 2019 while sitting behind McCollum and Prater. The redshirt rules allowing for action in four games should also allow us to get a glimpse of Robinson’s development over the course of the season. I don’t expect Robinson to see any action outside of games with outcomes that have already been decided.
While the offensive line has room for improvement after the 2018 season, I expect this unit to rise to the occasion. Replacing a guy like Erik McCoy won’t be easy but considering the amount of talent and depth across the offensive line, I’d expect the Aggies to cut back on the sack total in 2019 while also continuing to be physical in the run game. Even if the Aggies lose some linemen to injury over the course of the season, the talent in the two deep ought to provide Kellen Mond with security allowing for the junior quarterback to continue to improve. Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, breaking down the Texas A&M defensive ends.